Wo'C Correspondent Keith alerted me that the results are in for that Worst Movie Ever poll we talked about here, and the winner, as he more or less predicted, is...Battlefield Earth! So I apologize for recycling yet another piece from Better Living Through Bad Movies, but the temptation -- let alone the synchronicity -- is simply too great to resist. So here's our exegesis of L. Ron Hubbard's magnum opus, along with a few life lessons we picked up along the way.
Directed by Roger Christian
Written by L. Ron Hubbard (novel), Corey Mandell and J.D. Shapiro
A crawl informs us that it’s the Year 3000, and for the past thousand years, Earth has been ruled by the "Psychlos." How did such an advanced race of space-faring beings wind up with such a stupid name? Well, they’re obviously a nutty bunch, judging by John Travolta’s performance, and they seem to have wiped out every trailer park on the planet, so I’m guessing that author and Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard just combined the words “psycho” and “cyclone.” Anyway, they’re big-assed aliens from a planet where George Clinton is the dominant life form.
The Psychlos have spent the past millennium prospecting for gold, so I assume that when not invading other planets and committing genocide, they act as the Gabby Hayes-like comic relief to an alien species that resembles Roy Rogers or Hoot Gibson.
Meanwhile, humans (represented by pasty white people dressed like Vikings) are conﬁned to pockets of wasteland, where they are rapidly becoming extinct—so I guess all those dead 19th century Indians are having a bit of a laugh. Just so we get the point, the director pans the pristine, snow-capped Rocky Mountains (giving us a glimmer of hope that even in the bleak, post-apocalyptic future, there will still be beer commercials) and a subtitle reads: “Man is an endangered species.” Despite this, the Bush Administration still wants to drill in the Arctic National Man Refuge.
The survivors of humanity have adopted the usual trappings of barbarism—furs and buckskin clothing, polytheism, and French braids. One courageous lad (Barry Pepper) deﬁes the anger of the gods and boldly ventures forth alone to ﬁnd his destiny. Within thirty seconds he gets thrown from his horse, and panicked by a miniature golf course. Fortunately, he runs into a pair of hunters, and offers them snacks in exchange for exposition.
They take shelter in the Apocalypse Galleria and huddle around a cook ﬁre. But one of the Psychlos turns out to be a mall walker, and he takes exception to their careless use of an open ﬂame so close to Lane Bryant. The alien stuns the two hunters with its ray gun, but Barry is too fast for it, perhaps because the alien isn’t entirely at ease clomping around in Gene Simmons’ platform boots from
Eventually, Barry and the hunters are put in a cage built into the belly of an alien jet. Yes, even though it’s a thousand years in the future, and the aliens can instantly teleport across the galaxy, they still use internal combustion engines. Suck it, Al Gore!
The jet ﬂies to the Psychlo’s capital, Biosphere 2. The humans are issued those little anti-snoring patches for their noses, which somehow helps them to survive the extraterrestrial environment inside the dome. But it’s not only the air that’s different; the entire domed city is perpetually bathed in a dim blue glow, suggesting the Psychlos can only exist in the atmosphere of a soft-core porn ﬁlm.
The jet lands at the “Human Processing Center—Denver,” and we look forward to watching Barry get rendered into a form of alien Velveeta. Instead, he startles his captors by shooting one of the Psychlos with its own gun, and making a break for it. But he immediately slips and falls, for along with man’s loss of art, science, and medicine, he has also forgotten the ancient admonition not to run on the linoleum in your socks.
Barry slides to a stop at the platformed feet of Psychlos John Travolta and Forrest Whittaker, who were in the middle of discussing how beeswax will help to keep the fuzz down on your dreadlocks.
Travolta, it seems, has fallen from favor with the Home Ofﬁce, and has been condemned to serve as security chief of Earth for another 50 years. All the other Psychlos laugh at John, except for his immediate supervisor, who’s too busy cultivating the largest dewlap in the galaxy.
Cut to Planet Psychlo. It’s a grim, inhospitable world; a dark urban landscape stretches to the horizon, studded with towers belching ﬁre and pollution into the perpetual twilight of a purple sky, and inhabited by cruel beings thirsting for wealth and power. So basically, it’s Houston.
Cut right back to Earth, where John is getting drunk and working himself into a thick, creamy lather of overacting, which is later harvested, and dispensed as food to the humans with the help of a sour cream gun from Taco Bell.
John plans to buy his way off the planet by secretly training “man-animals” to mine a newly discovered vein of gold. First, however, he sets the humans to remodeling his ofﬁce with pickaxes. But Barry, who is evolving faster than the apes in 2001, turns on John’s stereo and boldly messes with his equalizer settings.
The outraged Travolta immediately straps Barry into a dentist’s chair and has a Portuguese Man O’ War teach him Conversational Psychlo. Then they shoot some pollen in his eye, and suddenly, he’s The Computer Wore Moccasins.
John, realizing that Reading Is Fundamental, takes Barry on a ﬁeld trip to the Denver Library, and tells him that “Man is an endangered species,” because Barry was ignorant when the ﬁlm began, and couldn’t read the opening titles.
Later, John hauls Barry and his friends out to the forest, and proves his technological superiority by shooting the legs off a cow. Just as he’s about to win the plush toy, he’s jumped by a feral tribe wearing fox pelts on their heads, which menace him with spears. John miraculously escapes, however, when the tribe itself is attacked by PETA.
Suddenly, Forrest arrives with Barry’s girlfriend, who they’ve identiﬁed because she was carrying a chamois with a face scratched into it. The image looks remarkably like one of Red Skelton’s clown paintings, so the Psychlos immediately deduce that it must be Barry. The Girlfriend is then accessorized with the latest in explosive collars.
Back at Biosphere II, John sexually harasses his new secretary, giving us the opportunity to see that female Psychlos have prehensile tongues and male pattern baldness, and, one would assume, an escort service that does pretty well when the House Republican Caucus is in town.
Suddenly, Travolta discovers that governor Dewlap has been skimming profits, and threatens to report him to the Nevada Gaming Commission unless he does something about that Elizabethan rufﬂe of loose skin hanging from his neck.
Cut to the Rockies, where Travolta orders Barry (who has now gotten his alien jet learner's permit) to ﬂy the human miners up to the gold vein, since the thin atmosphere at high altitudes doesn’t supply enough oxygen to support the Psychlo’s spittle-ﬂecked, mouth-breathing acting style.
Instead, Barry ﬂies to Ft. Hood, where the illiterate, spear-wielding fox-head guys learn how to pilot F-16s by playing Asteroids, while Barry watches that How to Assemble an Atomic Bomb film strip they always used to make us watch on rainy days in junior high. Then they ﬂy to Kentucky and rob Ft. Knox in a scene that’s not exactly the climax of Goldﬁnger.
Later, Barry manages to sow doubt and distrust between Forrest and Travolta, with the result that John decapitates a bartender, and shoots off Forrest’s hand. Forrest looks confused, and considers reporting John to the EEOC for creating a hostile work environment.
Barry riles up all the human prisoners in the Planet of the Apes Memorial Cellblock, and sparks a revolt, but it doesn’t go very well. Just in the nick of time, however, the tribe of primitive hunter-gatherers arrive, ﬂying jet ﬁghters which are in perfect working condition after a thousand years of neglect. But let my car sit for more than a week, and I can just forget about getting it started again without begging one of the neighbors for a jump. Anyway, a bunch of illiterate, lice-ridden, half-naked savages suddenly turn into Top Gun fighter jocks after one trip to the Drivers Ed simulator and start shooting down the technologically advanced Psychlos, proving that Scientology really does work wonders.
The humans blow up Biosphere 2. Then Barry uses his girlfriend’s explosive collar to blow off Travolta’s right arm, in a ruthless act of attempted irony.
Meanwhile, one of Barry’s posse teleports to the Planet Psychlo with an atomic weapon. This is where the aliens really pay for basing their entire economy on the petrochemical industry, since the bomb causes their atmosphere to catch on ﬁre.
And even though the ﬁlm isn’t explicit about this, we sense that as every living thing on the surface of the planet is incinerated, certain cashiered whistleblowers from the Psychlo EPA enjoy a moment of smug vindication.
So what new truths have we gleaned from Battleﬁeld Earth? Basically, if you're looking for a weird, nerdy religion with a scripture based on classic sci-fi themes like time travel, teleportation, and strange alien worlds, then you might as well just join the Mormons. At least they don't make crappy action movies, and if you're an attractive young woman, you're much less likely to be selected by church elders as the host organism for Tom Cruises' next baster baby.